Posts about Church Parking
Last night, DDOT representatives held a short presentation on the latest design for the M Street cycle track. They have improved the design further since we last saw it. Meanwhile, angry opponents of the cycle track, including members of a nearby church which may lose some on-street parking, dominated the question and answer period.
During the presentation, DDOT tried to explain the reasoning for the cycle track, how it would work and how it would benefit people. Jim Sebastian, Mike Goodno and Associate Director Sam Zimbabwe showed preliminary data from the ongoing L Street study that showed that over the last 6 months since the cycle-track was installed, biking on L Street was up 41% (560 cyclists during the 8 hours of rush hour, up from 396).
Over the same period bicycle and pedestrian crashes on L Street were both down a trivial amount. Meanwhile, travel time by car had increased by only 1 minute across the length of the cycletrack in the morning and by no measurable amount in the afternoon commute (using data after construction on Connecticut Avenue was complete).
They also discussed results of the completed 15th Street cycle-track showing that biking increased and that while crashes rose too, it was not by as much as biking.
Experience with L Street helps improve M Street design
They talked about lessons they learned on L street and how that influenced design on M. For example, the cycle-track will be narrower, with parking and loading zones adjacent to it. They'll put in more flexposts. And they're using a new "Yield to Bikes" sign.
Parking and loading would change very little. To deal with what lost parking there would be, they plan to take back some unused diplomatic parking spaces and replace some missing parking meters, as well as add better signage.
The schedule is to continue evaluating L Street until August and then install the tracks before the end of the summer. That process would take 3 weeks and be done in phases.
Other design features include the cycle-track diversion onto Rhode Island Avenue that may have a concrete barrier to protect cyclists from traffic.
Left turning cyclists can stop in queue areas within intersections to make a two-light turn.
The drawings included other design changes like a raised cycle track at a bus stop where the track passes behind the stop.
Angry audience comments almost derail the meeting
Before DDOT could discuss these things, the meeting got very heated. At one point, Zimbabwe threatened to end the meeting if people continued to be disrespectful with one another.
It started with a woman who asked why DDOT was going ahead with the M Street lane if the L street study wasn't complete. M Street, she was told, is a complement to L, so any study of L is incomplete without M. Originally they were to be built simultaneously.
But she was clearly opposed to the project regardless, she said with exasperation that "L didn't work," claiming that no one ever used it (despite the presentation she just saw showing that there were several hundred users each rush hour) and that traffic was a disaster. Why were we spending money on bike lanes when libraries are closing? She called the design confusing and asked who this lane is for.
But that was just the appetizer. Many members and leaders of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church were there and they were not happy about the cycle track or the way DDOT had informed them about it.
"When slaves built our church, they were not thinking about bike lanes," is how the first comment started.
There were many criticisms, some of them contradictory. No one rides on M Street. Senior citizens won't be able to cross the street to get to church because cyclists never yield to pedestrians (only a problem if people actually do bike on M). Senior citizens rely on the church for transportation. Other M Street businesses are not pleased either. The bike lane on the north side will block funeral access. "What percentage of taxpayer money is going to this?"
When asked if this was a done deal, Zimbabwe said it was and it wasn't. That there was going to be a cycle track on M, but what it would look like was still negotiable. Speakers proceeded to throw the "done deal" comment, which wasn't his wording, back at him several times. But he stuck to his guns. When asked if the debate was over, he said "for this street, yes." When asked if the 1500 block could be left out of the plans, he said that it would have too negative an impact on people trying to bike the road.
But the biggest issues were that the church would lose its angled parking on Sundays (which took them 3 years to get) and that no one talked to them about it until the day before.
A pastor for the church talked about the church's 175 year history, 87 of those years at this location. She noted that this church is tied to the struggles of the African-American people, so to not hear about something like this until after it was a "done deal" is very disturbing and insulting. The church had been offered $1 million to move out of the city in the past, but they had made a commitment to stay. Many of their members had moved to the counties but still made an effort to come to church here. "Is DC becoming a church-unfriendly place?" she asked.
On the first issue, DDOT created several alternatives for Sundays that would still allow 30-50 parking spaces, even one with angled parking and several that allowed parking in the cycletrack (which would shift in between two lanes of car parking) and promised to work on it with the church.
On the second issue, Jim Sebastian apologized and noted that he had met with church staff at the church in 2011. At least one person accused him of lying. Sebastian said he could pull the phone and email logs if needed. He also noted that they had started this process in 2009 with public meetings, and that DDOT staff have met with ANC's, BIDs, groups and individuals. He said they tried to reach the church, a comment that brought scoffs from the church's members.
I'll add that anyone on M Street who didn't know about this has not been paying attention. While I don't expect anyone to have read the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan, the addition of a cycle track on M Street has been reported in the Washington Post many times. In fact it's been mentioned in numerous news outlets on many many occasions over many years. DDOT has had meetings and press releases. It's not been kept a secret. That no one in the church had ever heard about it until this week seems incredible.
Zimbabwe tried to address all the concerns. The M Street lane would have better signage. DC does not intend to be church-unfriendly. There is no "rush" to complete this, but DDOT wants to make people safe now, not later. They're willing to work with the church to resolve its issues.
He could have mentioned that in many cases funding for bike lanes can't be moved over to libraries.
When one woman talked about how important biking was for our future, someone asked her "Do you expect senior citizens to bike." "Yes," I thought, "many already do now." In fact many senior citizens in the church had prefaced their comments with "I'm a cyclist."
Another speaker, opposed to the bike lane, asked "Who wants this?" and many hands shot up followed by applause.
"We're not taking a vote here or pitting one side against another," Zimbabwe said.
A restaurant/bar owner on M Street said that the street is already girdlocked (despite DDOT data presented earlier saying otherwise) and that eliminating a traffic lane was going to be a disaster for drivers and for his business. "I did find one friend who rides a bike and he says he'll never use it," he added, while noting that gridlock causes pollution and that snow removal is a problem as well. "Every merchant on M Street is concerned and in disbelief about this."
Zimbabwe pointed out that this is to get new riders to use bikes. Many tried to point to data in NYC showing that cycle tracks are good for business. One person thanked DDOT for putting the cycle track on L and opening her eyes to all the great businesses there.
A Georgetown ANC member took the opportunity to berate DDOT for not doing something about all the unsafe cyclists disregarding traffic laws. "It's a miracle that no one has been hurt," he noted, without realizing he was contradicting his whole position.
Finally, someone asked, "can't bike lanes go in AND angled parking be kept? Why does it have to be either/or?"
Zimbabwe promised to find a way to address the parking needs of church goers.
And they do have a plan for that. Below you can see Sunday parking on the bike lane as one alternative.
Church parking is a huge problem in Shaw, especially today. It's commonly said that the churches in Shaw used to serve immediate residents, and thus didn't need as much parking, but as their congregants have moved farther away over time, they need space for their cars on Sundays. But is this true?
Of the 42 churches reporting in the NW Urban Renewal area (see map), only 14 had 40% or more of their membership in the renewal area in 1957. Yes, that is 56 years ago, but as present day churches grousing about parking dredge up members who've been attending for 40-50 years as an excuse to ignore parking violations of members of undetermined tenure, I say it is fair to look at membership patterns from way back then.
In [an Examiner article from October, entitled "Parking conflicts prompting churches to flee D.C.,"] Lincoln Congregational Temple is mentioned as one of the complaining churches. On page 39 of the 1957 survey only 25% of its congregants lived in the area and supposedly of that, most were elderly, people who should be by now at home with Jesus. With the Savior and not driving and trying to find a parking spot.The parking problem has grown especially acute recently. Residents petitioned DDOT to extend residential permit parking (RPP) to Sundays, meaning churchgoers who don't live in the area can only park for 2 hours on RPP blocks and not at all on one side of every street. That has made it impossible for church patrons to use the street parking.
In '57 a majority of their membership [were] up in Brookland and over in Kenilworth. It is possible that the church recruited a ton of members in the Shaw area since the survey, who then moved out of the area and come back on Sundays. However, I don't think that gives anyone a moral right to a parking spot, no more than having the right to use the toilet in your first apartment years after you turned in the keys and got your deposit back.
Shaw is chock full of churches, and some of them have figured out how to worship without double parking and the like. Sadly it is the ones who haven't seriously looked for solutions, other than breaking the law, who seem to scream the loudest. It is embarrassing as a believer, when some church leaders try to make parking a theological issue. Parking ain't in the Bible.
I also suspect that in 1957 Shaw had fewer resident-owned cars, so there wasn't the same level of competition for curb space.
DDOT has been working with individual churches for some time to try to find extra space that can accommodate parking on Sundays, like diagonal parking or space along the medians of wide avenues. But any such parking has to be open to all, not just churchgoers (anything else would be fairly clearly unconstitutional), and just adding more free parking won't ultimately solve the problem.
Many of the churches, but not all, have nearby office buildings or public schools with unused parking capacity on Sundays. There should be a way to work out a deal where the churches can use these lots. However, that parking won't be entirely free.
As we saw with the compromise the Washington Interfaith Network worked out for Columbia Heights churches to use the DC USA garage, once free parking is clearly not an option, suddenly a compromise that involves non-free parking becomes tenable.
The neighborhood parking also isn't entirely full, now that it's so restricted. It should be possible to let some people who want to drive to Shaw park on neighborhood streets, but there isn't room for all. How can DC allocate this scarce resource? The only ways to divvy up a limited resource is lottery, queue, pricing, favoritism (choosing one preferential group), or a hodgepodge.
Right now, it's favoritism for residents, with no option for others. The most sensible approach would be to set up a parking pass that's not free, perhaps also limited in number, which people could purchase to park in Shaw on Sundays. But the assumption that parking must be free, that free parking is a God-given right, is a straitjacket that forecloses better, creative solutions.
Update: The change to the parking included restrictions to RPP holders only on one side of every street. The original article did not mention this feature of the new policy. It has been corrected.
A solution to the chronic parking problems some Columbia Heights churchgoers face could be at hand. The Current reports (mammoth PDF) that the Washington Interfaith Network worked out a deal with the District government to let church patrons use the underfilled DC USA parking garage for a discount rate.
Columbia Heights has a lot of churches with many congregants who lived in the neighborhood long ago. Many have taken advantage of better economic circumstances for themselves, or the rising value of their property in Columbia Heights, to move to houses in the suburbs which they desired. Others were pushed out by rising rents. Many of these former residents still drive back to the old church on Sundays.
At the same time, the population of the neighborhood has swelled. That means much fiercer competition for limited parking spaces on the street. As the Current story explains, parking rules in the area are suspended on Sundays, but only until 2 pm, which is too early for many who want to stay longer at church.
During a citywide "parking summit," members of many nearby church congregations asked DDOT for exemptions from the parking restrictions so they could continue to park for free, for unlimited lengths of time. Instead of more free parking, this deal will give churchgoers a $2 discount to park at the DC USA garage. The garage is never completely filled, as Target insisted on far more parking spaces than turned out to be necessary.
A key point here is that the churchgoers, who need parking, were willing to work out a deal with city officials without the promise of unlimited, unrestricted, free parking. In fact, the very fact that parking was not so available, thanks to greater demand and new restrictions, likely made people willing to think creatively.
It may indeed be worthwhile to subsidize, to some extent, parking for certain groups based on political necessity. What's important is not to subsidize it to the point of being completely free. When people share in the cost of parking, they might choose to carpool, or ride transit if it's available. They have a stake in keeping the total parking demand manageable. There's a reason not to drive, and take up a scarce space, completely unnecessarily.
Not all neighborhoods have a big, underutilized garage, but there are other solutions as well. Some areas have office building or hotel garages which don't fill up on Sundays, or other ways to procure some short-term parking. These can give churches an opportunity to satisfy their congregation's legitimate parking needs.
But first, it takes a city not willing to succumb to the first temptation, to just give out free on-street parking willy-nilly and create problems for others. If leaders resist this, many opportunities open up to solve the parking needs for churches and many other organizations which have a real place in a community, but not the right to monopolize all parking to the exclusion of others.
Update: negotiated with the city on behalf of the congregations to work out this deal.
Comments at a DDOT "parking summit" last night gave a glimpse into the diverse range of attitudes about parking in the District: almost everyone wants more readily available, free parking for people like them.
Some who spoke were residents who wanted more available and free parking on their local streets. Some people with disabilities wanted to have more available spaces but not have to pay for parking at meters, as they don't today. (Right around the same time, the DC Council narrowly defeated the new red top meter program, which means people with disabled placards will continue to park for free.)
A large fraction of the attendees worship at DC churches, and argued that especially because of their service to the community, they deserve more privileges to park for free on DC streets. Many represented churches in the Logan Circle area, which recently reserved one side of the street for residential permit holders 7 days a week.
While demanding unlimited free parking isn't really fair, the Logan Circle churches have some reasonable gripes. A few months ago, Councilmember Jack Evans suggested to the Logan Circle ANC that they try this parking change; the ANC approved the plan and DDOT put it into place. The churches, evidently, weren't part of that discussion.
This is a simple matter of allocating a scarce resource. Before, the policy on Sundays was to allocate the spaces to whomever showed up first or circled around long enough to find a space. Now, it privileges residents at the expense of churchgoers or shoppers or others. Maybe that's a better policy, maybe not, but we all need to acknowledge that it's a tradeoff; when one group gets more privileges, another loses them.
Pricing has to be part of the equation
One participant, Emily from Adams Morgan, pointed out that the current political system favors residents, though not for any sound policy reason. She was one of the handful of people who pushed for a market-based pricing approach. There's still a way to go to sell this to the church folks, however; many were grumbling and shaking her heads when Emily, or anyone else, suggested that a solution to church parking is to stop having it all be free.
But that's ultimately what we have to do. Richard Layman pointed the finger for parking problems at the way most District parking policies assume parking should be free. Thus, the argument always revolves around whether to give one group free parking or another, rather than to use tools like pricing to manage demand.
He took aim at the sentiment that because people pay for RPP stickers, they have already paid their share. "You think you're paying for parking, but you're not paying squat," he said. Angelo Rao, DDOT's parking manager, also suggested RPP rates are too low, noting that the current sticker costs only 9.6¢ per day.
Several people, including outgoing southern Woodley Park ANC commissioner Anne-Marie Bairstow, new northern Woodley Park ANC commissioner Gwendolyn Bole, and Friendship Heights ANC commissioner Tom Quinn, all asked for smaller RPP zones.
Bairstow said the current visitor pass program, which automatically mailed out passes to every household, is flawed; she has neighbors who have driveways and garages and still got the passes, so they just gave them to friends from outside Ward 3 or even outside the District, who then use Woodley Park as a park-and-ride.
What's the answer for churches?
Smaller zones and higher RPP prices are policies that should clearly be part of any solution; the only obstacle is politics. The church issue is trickier. I've been pushing for a system where residents buy annual passes, as they do today but at a higher rate, for their immediate areas, and anyone else can buy daily passes, maybe at varying rates based on public policy.
Instead of the current visitor placards, give each resident a "booklet" of free day passes to use for contractors, nannies, dinner parties, or whatever else, and let them purchase more booklets if needed. For a church that really contributes meaningfully to its community (many do, some don't), we could give the church even more booklets, enough to provide for a large proportion of their parking need, but perhaps not all.
There needs to be some incentive for the churches and neighborhoods to work together in a partnership. Churchgoers can reduce their parking load to some extent, such as by organizing carpools. In some neighborhoods, there are empty office garages; if enough people were willing to pay to park in them, they could open on Sundays. But the church community has to be willing to figure out how to accommodate some of their demand in other ways.
The booklets could form an incentive to do this, if DDOT could manage the total numbers of booklets and passes it gives out so that the total demand doesn't vastly exceed supply. Or, economists might say, just give the church money and let them buy however many booklets they need, though that could be legally tricky.
The summit did bring this fundamental tension into clear relief. Lots of people want the spaces. There aren't enough. Someone has to divvy them up in some way. A program of letting anyone park for free doesn't work, and the complex patchwork of restrictions and limits that DDOT has been moving toward doesn't really work either.
Last week, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. introduced two bills to encourage diagonal (angled) parking. They sound like they'll increase the amount of parking. But is that what we want?
Both bills would require DDOT to establish procedures for adding diagonal parking. One would let businesses on a street apply for diagonal parking if 60% agree. The other would let religious institutions apply for diagonal parking, but only on Sundays, and with approval from the area ANC.
Diagonal parking means more parking spaces, which most business owners think will increase customers. But how do people get there? Who comes there? And why are Thomas' bills relevant?
DDOT already puts in angled parking in DC, but without a formal process. Requests usually come from Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), churches, ANCs, councilmembers, the Mayor's office, or citizens. The requests go to DDOT's Ward Planner, the Parking Specialist, or the Curbside Specialist. Several divisions discuss the idea based on the need, construction or other plans already in place, and, of course, traffic counts.
For businesses without a BID, this bills to establish a formal process could be helpful. For areas where double parking for churches often happens anyway, this might be a way to make some peace between neighbors and churches. If these requests are common, DDOT should have a formal policy.
When DDOT turns down requests, people usually aren't satisfied. They go higher, to the Council or the Mayor, and the order comes down to put it in. Given that, why would DDOT ever say no to diagonal parking? Is DDOT anti-business? Is DDOT anti-church? Here are a couple of reasons.
- The street's not wide enough. Parallel parking requires 7-9 feet, travel lanes are 10-12, and bike lanes are 5. Angled parking, depending on whether the angle is 45, 60, or 90, consumes 16-20 feet. Unless there's an travel lane that isn't needed, angled parking isn't possible.
- The space is already being used. What's occupying the space today? If vehicle counts are high enough, then the answer is traffic. If not, there might be a bike lane or a sidewalk widening planned. To install permanent diagonal parking, the city needs to decide if enough space can be taken out of the transportation network permanently during the week. This is not an easy decision. Once angled parking is installed, an act of Congress seems to be the only way to undo it.
On Sundays, traffic is likely not an issue. While at DDOT, planners recognized that permanent diagonal parking often kills the possibility for bike lanes on certain blocks (11th ST NW between Vermont and Q Streets, for example). Does it matter if the bike lanes are blocked on Sundays, since there's so little traffic anyway? Can people on bikes simply use the travel lane? This might not be problematic on Sundays, but could be slippery slope to losing the integrity of bike lanes.
Now the broader question: Do we want more parking? It has generally been treated as good. But what else comes with more parking?
More traffic. It's a fact (proven over and over and over) that more parking creates more traffic. But in a retail area that seems barren, isn't more traffic a good thing? Maybe, but so is a good streetscape to make people want to shop there in the first place.
Diagonal parking has a traffic calming effect, but so to other techniques. After the protected bike lanes on 15th Street NW were installed, the number of vehicles driving over 20 mph over the speed limit decreased from 147 a day to 3 (a 98% reduction). Calmer traffic means people are driving slower, looking around more at businesses, and watching for cars exiting spaces. But it's just one tool in the traffic calming toolbox.
Diagonal parking is just one way to address parking shortages. There are many ways to manage parking, from building a garage to alternating pricing and time limits at meters. A bill that calls out a single solution to an often complicated problem ties the hands of experts whose job it is to keep up with innovations and to understand limits of each one.
More parking means businesses tend to market to people driving in, not neighbors. When residents can walk, bike, take the bus or a taxi to businesses nearby, businesses will cater to them. But when people can drive to your neighborhood restaurant, the restaurant will start giving them what they want, not what you want.
That means more emphasis on parking and valets, and less on sidewalks, trees, benches, bike racks, and bike lanes. While more parking for businesses and churches seems like a good way to deal with struggling businesses and too many people driving in on Sundays, it enforces the idea that these aren't really for neighbors.
More parking hurts the taxicab industry. Taxis are demand-responsive, on-demand transit. But the taxi system works best without congestion and when people aren't driving themselves. Taxis are also a great way to get home from bars at 2am, when Metro is infrequent and people do not want to be driving.
Are Councilmember Thomas' bills necessary? Do we need more permanent parking? If the honest intent of these bills is to issue procedures, and not simply to force DDOT to approve more diagonal parking, then they could have some benefit, but may not be necessary. But let us not forget that more parking often comes at the price of other aspects of city life we enjoy.
DC Council considers primary date, diagonal parking, free school transit, taxi medallions and much more
DC's primary will likely move to April, people will get solar rebates, and bills introduced in the DC Council yesterday could establish a taxi medallion system, make transit free for schoolchildren, add diagonal parking, and put requirements on large retailers like Walmart.
The Council approved the first reading of a bill to move DC's presidential and local primary to April 3 next year. The presidential date allows DC to potentially band together with Maryland and Delaware and get bonus delegates from the political parties, which are trying to incentivize regional primaries after March.
For the local primary, March is more problematic. Since DC's primary essentially determines the winner in races including the mayoral race, a primary at the start of March could mean that one person will hold the seat for 10 more months while another is already virtually certain to take over.
We saw Mayor Fenty essentially stop making significant decisions once he lost the primary, but Gray was not yet mayor to start making any decisions, and so little happened in the government in the interim. Having this last for almost a year is dangerous. Councilmembers Phil Mendelson (at-large) and Tommy Wells (ward 6) raised this same objection in the session, but won over no colleagues.
Also during the legislative session, the Council gave those solar rebates to people who had qualified but suddenly found there was no money; unfortunately, this comes out of other sustainable energy funding.
They also delayed a vote on a nominee to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, Gray campaign attorney 1998-2000 DCRA head Lloyd Jordan, in part because of opposition letters from some neighborhood groups.
Sekou Biddle (interim at-large) introduced a bill to make transit free for children traveling to and from school. He argued that this will reduce truancy. It might, but it would also cost money which DC doesn't have, and there was no indication where the money might come from to pay for this.
Harry Thomas, Jr. (ward 5) introduced three car-related bills. A pair of bills asks for regulations to allow diagonal parking in business corridors, when 60% of businesses in an area ask for it, and religious institutions on Sundays, with the approval of the area ANC.
Diagonal parking can be a fine way to fit more parking into an area when there is room on the street that's not already being used. DDOT is proposing this between Tenleytown's Whole Foods and Wilson High, for instance. But in most places in DC where church parking is scarce, there isn't room on the street to add diagonal parking.
Area business corridors, ANCs, and churches should be able to petition DDOT now to consider diagonal parking if they want to. They should also be able to ask DDOT to consider removing parking, or changing a street from one-way to two-way or vice versa, or adding a bike lane.
So yes, diagonal parking should be a part of the overall toolbox, and if DDOT lacks the authority to implement it now, they should get that authority. But diagonal parking will only make sense in a very small number of cases. Thomas talked about holding town halls around his ward, and it's hard not to wonder if he's just introducing this to be able to say he's doing something at those town halls, even if that something is almost always impractical for the specific situation.
On a side note, Thomas seems to be trying to keep the bill from singling out one faith by referring to "religious institutions," but by limiting the rule to Sundays, it does exclude religious institutions which celebrate on Saturdays, for instance.
Another bill that's likely to generate more serious debate is a measure from Thomas, Michael Brown (at-large) and Marion Barry (ward 8) to establish a system of taxicab medallions, with separate categories for DC resident drivers and non-resident drivers, as well as special categories for taxis operating in underserved areas and low-emission (hybrid) taxis. This topic is worth its own, separate post.
Phil Mendelson introduced a pair of bills largely targeted at Wal-Mart. Both apply only to retailers of at least 75,000 square feet, requiring them to negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with their neighborhoods and pay living wages and benefits.
Observers think these have little chance of passing. The bills will go to committees chaired by Thomas and Michael Brown, who both court the union vote but also who have shown little interest in interfering with Walmart's expansion into DC.
Other bills included ones to require food trucks to pay sales tax, as we discussed yesterday, and expand low-income property tax relief, from Jack Evans (ward 2); to publish Council procurement information online, from Chairman Kwame Brown and Mary Cheh (ward 3); to allow L3Cs, a type of hybrid nonprofit/for-profit business entity; and a number of measures from Cheh to improve transparency.
When I set out to interview At-Large candidates, I was most hopeful about Mark Long. At least at the start of the campaign, his platform spoke of "getting people out of cars" (though I can't find that on his site any more). Maybe Mark Long would be the Smart Growth candidate?
Long is a fourth generation Washingtonian. He worked for Xerox, as a money manager and investment banker for Smith Barney, and currently as an education consultant. Naturally, he has some ideas for education reform. In addition to supporting the Fenty-Rhee efforts, he thinks we can serve special education children better, and cheaper, than we do today.
Long does support mixed-use, walkable development in downtown corridors, like Downtown Ward 7 or on upper Georgia Avenue, where his campaign made its headquarters (though only by accident). When I asked about resident concerns about growth in areas like Ward 7, Long said he understood specific neighborhood concerns, but felt that "we have to operate less out of fear and more out of faith."
Like Mara, Long agrees with the need to grow DC's population and tax base. He's for streetcars, probably, calling them "another shot in the arm for our developing businesses" and saying of existing streetcar proposals, "What I have seen I like." He feels strongly about environmental initiatives like commercial and residential recycling, drives a hybrid, and would like to see tax credits for green building.
More broadly, however, Long wasn't able to effectively articulate his ideas. He kept talking about "changing the culture," but how exactly wasn't so clear. Long spoke extensively about "smoother coordination" with the federal government, reducing "costs in the workflow process" in the DC government, and other business-terminology generalities.
On tougher transportation issues, Long fell back to hedging his answers. He wouldn't take a stand on Klingle, wasn't sure about the idea of narrowing RPP zones to neighborhoods instead of wards, and feels church parking "needs to be at the discretion of officers on a case by case basis".
I spoke to Long weeks ago, and in the interim, he has probably sharpened his rhetorical technique. It was enough to make Dupont ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson, whom I greatly respect, endorse Long, and at least on specific on policy issues, Mark Long would probably be an improvement over Carol Schwartz. But his less sure understanding of detailed policy issues, coupled with his political inexperience, pose too great an obstacle to winning him a seat on the DC Council.
Nancy Shia, representing northeastern Adams Morgan on ANC 1C, was arrested Sunday for taking pictures of a crime scene. Shia claims she was "just trying to document the scene," while police claim she was "impeding a police investigation" and opened the door of a police vehicle to get a picture of a juvenile suspect.
Petworth median parking compromise: The Petworth ANC, community and DDOT have reached a compromise about church parking on New Hampshire Avenue. DDOT wanted to replace a concrete median with a landscaped median, but a nearby church has been using it for parking on Sundays. Under the plan, the median will go in, but one of the travel lanes will become a parking lane on Sundays only.
Nobody's enforcing Capitol Hill meters: What good is having market-rate performance parking meters (which still aren't actually market rate, yet) when most of the cars parked at them haven't paid? (Infosnack)
Falls Church kinda-sorta-semi-urban-ish: A resident of Falls Church praises his "bucolic suburban village"'s transition "towards [a] quasi-urban place" by building some denser, mixed-use buildings on Route 7. Via Planetizen.
Ride-and-drive in Chicago: CTA is creating a unified fare card that's also an access card for I-GO car sharing services. This coincides with new shared cars that will be parked at CTA lots. (Apparently we have some Zipcars in WMATA lots too).
Today is the first Council legislative session after the recess. Right now Councilmembers just finished introducing bills. Here are a few of particular relevance:
Brookland streetscape: Harry Thomas, Jr. introduced a resolution asking DDOT to postpone the 12th Street streetscape project in Brookland until something can be worked out about burying the power lines. Co-introducers: Graham, Brown, Cheh, Barry. Cosponsors: Schwartz, Alexander, Mendelson.
Church angle parking: Thomas also introduced a bill to allow churches to apply angle parking on Sundays, but only with the consent of their ANC and petitions with support from neighbors. In introducing the bill, Thomas expressed his hope that this could also provide a way to add more parking in business corridors as well. Cosponsors: Mendelson.
Tree removal in parks: Jim Graham introduced two bills concerning trees. One would tighten notice requirements for DDOT to remove trees in public parks. DDOT recently took down two old trees in Kalorama Park with no notice, prompting a big outcry from residents who doubted whether removing the trees was the only option and were upset by the suddenness of this irrevocable action. Co-introduced by Schwartz. Cosponsors: Mendelson, Thomas, Gray, Evans, Alexander.
Hazardous trees in public space: Graham also introduced a bill making the District responsible for hazardous trees in public space. In DC, much if not all of homeowners' front yards is technically in public space, not privately owned, but the homewoners landscape and tend to the land. According to Graham, there are situations where trees in public space present a hazard to others, but who can't afford to remove the trees. The bill would shift this responsibility to the government. Cosponsors: Schwartz, Cheh, Bowser, Mendelson, Alexander, Brown, Evans, Gray.
Impervious surface WASA fees: Right now, WASA charges sewer rates based on the total amount of water each property uses. However, properties covered with impervious, paved surfaces (like large parking lots) dump much more water into the sewer system in storms than properties mostly covered with dirt that can soak up the water. Graham also introduced a bill to allow WASA to charge an "impervious surface fee" based on the percentage of property that's covered with impervious surface. The bill will also cap rate increase for low-income ratepayers.
Graham's bill also lets DC WASA restrict the amount of storm sewer outflow it takes from Maryland. This gets at an existing political issue: Environmental law will force DC to spend about $2 billion to construct holding tanks so that sewage doesn't run into the river during a storm when the sewers fill up, but much of that runoff comes from Maryland. DC officials don't feel Maryland is doing enough to contribute to this problem, and by letting WASA limit what it takes from Maryland, according to Graham, it will force Maryland to negotiate in better faith to solve the problem. Cosponsors: Bowser, Cheh, Thomas, Schwartz, Alexander, Brown, Evans, Catania, Gray, Barry.
Protesters interrupted the bill introductions chanting slogans about public property. Currently, DC can sell underutilized public property, which some activists want to prevent. There was originally supposed to be a hearing this morning on a bill by Harry Thomas, Jr. to restrict such sales, but at some point the agenda changed to cover these bill introductions and a measure about prohibiting "aversive intervention techniques" in special education. Activists want a hearing on the public property bill.
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